No regrets – returning to work after a career break

This week my two daughters went back to school; posing against the wall in their new shoes and oversized cardigans, light box prepped and ready with the ‘first day at school’ text ready for the inevitable photo moment. And, with one starting reception, one moving up into juniors this feels a milestone year for them, but also for someone else too.

Back in April I started a new job in the pharmaceutical industry; a similar role to my previous employment but with a five year gap between them.

In the five years following my redundancy I slowly learnt to survive and even enjoy life as a stay at home Mum. But as the role changed and the babies turned into toddlers, then children demanding their next meal, the need to move onto a new challenge became unavoidable. The coffee mornings and lonely runs started to blend together, and I knew I needed a little something else in my future.

One of my biggest fears in going back to work was how we would manage the childcare; whether it was too early given the Mouse being due to start reception in September, who we’d find to look after them and how on earth we would cope during the holidays (surely the only option was to work in a school?). And all of that on the assumption I would actually be able to land a job.

But land a job I did, and not in a school. And we just completed successfully our first six week summer holiday of childcare without the (v pricey) childminding fees through a muddle of beg stealing and borrowing from friends and family. Swapping kids, sleepovers at the Grandparents, annual leave and swapping days – it did, as everyone said it would, ‘fall into place’.

So I’m five months in. I’m officially no longer the newest person in the team, and I have passed my probation period.

There have been bumps along the way, of course.Someone recently told me the troughs are predictably expected around day five, week five and month five (which I can vouch for – big fat tears on both day five and week five for reasons of overwhelm and exhaustion). Maybe I need to expect another one soon…

The wobbles were never about the job, my role or the wonderful opportunities I’ve been open to in the world of being a working Mum. They have however been a result of letting go of the quest for perfection, and being able to do it all. I’ve had to actively lower my hinch worthy standards around the house, be brave and ask for a little flexibility when I have needed it, for support and an up in representation by Dad Muddling Through, and to accept that sometimes I just can’t do it all.

But the hard times were never enough to make me question my decision. In fact, I’ve had a certain amount of self awareness that a good old cry and allowing myself to let the emotion out is both healthy and totally normal given the change our whole family has gone through.

The kids have coped amazingly. They adore their childminder and have settled into the new routine in no time. It’s an early start, but there had to be a positive somewhere in having a family of early risers. Plus, it mean I am home to them earlier, which was once rejected as they asked if I could pleeeease pick them up a little bit later so they have more time to play. Ouch that hurt. But honestly, the opposite would have been heart wrenching so I’ll take that as a win.

Logistically, I’ve gone from being an organised machine to perhaps a little more relaxed – another sign that life’s new routine is becoming more, well, normal. Mornings come together on a bit of a wing and a prayer, but one way or another we are muddling through. It was probably unrealistic to believe uniforms would be laid out every evening long term, lol.

The biggest positive has definitely been a feeling of balance. Even over the summer holidays it was a pleasure going in to work a few days a week, leaving the girls to have fun without me and not feeling under huge pressure to entertain them day in day out on my own. Of course, being part time is a huge part of this, and it really has been the best of both worlds.

The simple tasks of getting on a work wardrobe, feeling needed in a professional sense and (there’s no avoiding this) being paid a salary regularly have done wonders for my sense of self esteem and mental health. Getting out of the house and being in an environment around a diverse mix of (really lovely) individuals has boosted my zest for life and given me a little bit of sparkle back.

Work feels different this time around too. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I can only describe it as that feeling when you move from year 11 to sixth form, or college, or work, and there was an element of choice involved. No longer a prisoner of the system, you are a willing volunteer to be here. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way.

Of course, I have missed the kids and cursed the alarm clock (or was that the other way around?). But rather than focus on the negatives I have held onto the gratitude that I had that time with them when they needed me most. I’m home and helping them with their homework by 5.15 and despite the longer days and hours of driving, I have more energy than ever before (undoubtedly helped by other changes to my lifestyle this past year).

My blog has taken a back seat, but remains an important part of who I am and the life I built for myself in my time out from my science career. In fact ironically, along with a significant decrease in free time has come a burst of creativity; of ideas and a new lease of life that a new avenue was bound to bring.

There were so many things which stopped me making the leap back to work; grief, fear, nerves, attachment, ease, contentment. Ultimately, I always knew that I would know when the time was right. I guess 2019 was my time.


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